These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Questions of a Curious Soul

Posted on March 26, 2019 by Mina Pasajlic

If anyone would have asked me if anything about my life would be different after the year at Pardes – I would have probably said something like: “Well, I’m guessing I will know a little bit more than I do now and hopefully I’ll be more confident when teaching anything Jewishly in the future”. And if anyone would have asked me if I would change anything about my Jewish practices over the course of the year that I will spend at Pardes – I would have said “no”. And if anyone would have asked me if I think my beliefs would change or be challenged – I would have said “no”. And these two “no’s” would have been firm, confident “no’s” because I know who I am Jewishly. But – there is always a “but” – then I came to Pardes.

It’s been little over 6 months since I came to Jerusalem and started this journey called Pardes. And it’s been little over 5 months since I first realized that those two firm, confident “no’s” are now question marks. And new questions just kept on coming. Learning at Pardes is fascinating, challenging, thought-provoking, exciting, fun, hard. It’s an experience I didn’t know I wanted this much. And apparently, it came at a right time for me. At the time when I was ready to be challenged (without being aware of that) and at the time when I was open enough to question and be curious. And it turns out, curiosity is an amazing thing.

Different classes have raised different questions. It all started with a class which pushed me to ask myself questions (and of course potentially find the answers) like: What do I believe in? What is my concept of God? What do I think and believe when it comes to the question of the authorship of the Torah?It continued with a class which made me ask myself: What is my relationship with the Divine or what do I want my relationship with Divine to be? And all these questions kind of led me to the classes where prayer is explored and then these questions arose: What is a prayer for me? What is my connection to prayer? Do I even have a connection to prayer and do I want to have one? In one of these classes I was asked how do I relate to the content of the class and how am I making it relevant for my life. My answer was: I’m just curious. I’m curious to learn more about this topic. It helps me to understand it better, form my opinion and then decide whether, and potentially how, to make it relevant for my life.

And then there is the “ultimate” question – Why does all this matter?

Long time ago I’ve learned about myself that when a matter/issue is important to me, I often become emotional about it. And to my surprise, I became emotional talking about one of those topics, all in trying to find some answers. So, to try to answer the question: Why does all this matter? – It matters because it’s important to me. The minute I became emotional about it I understood I also became curious and wanted to find answers.

I honestly didn’t know that year at Pardes and this whole experience here would do this to me. “This” meaning challenge my mind this much, make me questions things I thought I knew or believed, provoke my thoughts, make me wonder. With time I’ve realized that I still know who I am Jewishly, except now I’m also curious to find out more and explore my Judaism.

In one of the classes I took, we once focused on the words from Bereshit 3:9, when God calls out to man (Adam) and says “Where are you?” The class continued with us spending some time and doing some personal reflection. The exercise required from us to continue the sentences “I am…” and “I am a(n)…”. This brought me to an interesting and surprising conclusion, which also kind of gave me an answer to the question from the Bereshit “Where are you?” My conclusion, and an answer, was: I’m on a journey.

The beauty of journeys is that you don’t always know where it’s going to take you. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t know what will happen when my time learning at Pardes comes to an end. Will I change any of my Jewish practices? I honestly don’t know. Do I have the answers to all those questions? No, I don’t. Will I find the answers while I’m still here? I don’t know. But that’s also OK. I’m truly happy to have all these questions and to have them wandering in my mind, even if I don’t find the answers. That just means I’m still on the journey. And I’m perfectly fine with that.